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Confidence in Nonsense

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JUN
10
2011

Sharing is caring!

By Kyle Kulyk

Hi all, and welcome to my weekly developer blog.

As we get closer to our first game’s completion, I took a moment to reflect back on some of the sources that have proved helpful to us as indie developers. As a startup company and like many other indies we’ve had to bootstrap it when it comes to financing. Money invested comes from within the group and our most precious commodity is time and talent. Time spent from our core members, time and talent volunteered by our friends and the support of our families along the way.

So when it comes to sourcing assets, be them sound assets, music or 3D models, free to use is often the only choice indie developers have to start their projects off. I thought I’d take a moment to share 4 important resources I’ve personally relied on for free to use assets that helped me as a student learning the art of game programming and design and sites we continue to rely on as an indie development studio today.

Freesound Project

The FreeSound Project, as their website will confirm, is a collaborative database of creative commons licensed sound files, contributed by members throughout the internet. It’s your one stop shopping center for all the zings, biffs, pops, pows, clashes, zaps and hopefully anything else your non-sound producing self could need.

 

Dig CCMixter

Like the FreeSound Project, CCmixter also provides a database of creative commons licensed material free for use, this time with a focus on full musical tracks. A word of caution though, please make sure to read the fine print. While all the tracks are free to use and remix – some are restricted from appearing in commercial works.

TurboSquid

While only a fraction of 3D models available on TurboSquid are actually free, it never hurts to check if you need a model and don’t have the time (or expertise) to produce one yourself. As well, plenty of the models are reasonably priced and there are certainly a few gems available that really make you go “Wow! 2 bucks for that?”

 

Digital Roar Studios Maelstrom Assets

As a way of giving back to the indie community that helped them along, Digital Roar Studios has created an asset package ranging from skyboxes to sound effects to full 3d fantasy models that is now open source. There’s certainly some cool stuff in here. Worth taking a look. You can download their asset package here.

 

Hope you find this short list helpful. If you have any suggestions of your own, please feel free to leave us a message via our Facebook page. Game on!

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JUN
05
2011

Dude, where is this blog going?

By Kyle Kulyk

So, as you may or may not have noticed by the length of my first two blog entries – I need an editor. Someone to tell me “Kyle, for the love of god – are you writing a novel? It’s a freakin’ blog.”

Talking to my other team members, I flat out asked if they liked what I was doing in the blog sphere. The said they did. Suspicious, I asked if they had read the blog. They hadn’t. At least, not the last one. It’s a page of text. It’s tiring even to look at, let alone read.

So – from now on I’ll endeavour to keep it simple, brief and concise. If I’m talking about a game design issue, if I’m loving to hear my own thoughts about the industry, or if I’m answering your questions, from now on you have my promise I won’t launch into a massive editorial. I’ll save those for the editorial section of smgamers.com.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions you’d like to see me address in this blog, feel free to use the contact form or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter. Doesn’t matter if it’s “How have you managed problem X with Unity?” or “What the hell’s an Itzy?”

I’m looking forward to answering any questions you many have. In the meantime, visit our news page and vote for your favorite design for Itzy’s webs!

Until next week! Oh, and about that virtual hug I promised to visitors on twitter. **VIRTUAL HUG**

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MAY
27
2011

The Death of Console Gaming

By Kyle Kulyk

There’s a shift currently underway in the videogame industry, a shift that developers and publishers alike are watching descend on them like a village watching the slow approach of a lava flow. The game industry is changing and old business models that have served their purpose for the past decade have started to lose their appeal as prospectors coming down out of the mountains of mobile and browser based games with pockets full of gold and tell tales of untapped veins of revenue for those brave enough to take on the risks of the journey. However more than a few of these prospectors have disappeared into those mountains and their bones now serve as chin rests for cougars, lazily licking their chops in anticipation of the next fool to come stumbling into their lair waving a lazy port of a flash game for the Android marketplace. Metaphors aside, what does the current popularity and growth of mobile and browser based games mean to the existing console markets?

Having recently attended the Canadian Games Developer conference, a reoccurring theme throughout many of the presentations was the current change in the industry away from older business models. During the Facebook panel it was opined that console gaming was dying and certainly this is a sentiment we’ve heard echoed before. Peter Vesterbacka of Roxio games (makers of Angry Birds) also recently commented that console games were dying, and that the existing model of charging $50-60 for videogames days were numbered.

It was during these talks and listening to the musings of other developers in the room that I was left with three distinct impressions. The first was that I disagreed. The second was that many of the traditional developers either don’t know what to make of the surge in browser and mobile games or simply don’t see how it affects them. The third is that I was the enemy.

While the games industry as a whole is fairly supportive of indie development studios, it seems to me to be a dismissive sort of support. We’re invited along but rather treated like the little brother of the games industry. When mentioning indie development studios I was often treated to a pat on the head and a “You’re an indie developer? Good for you!”

Indie developers generally tend to be small and unheard of. They focus mainly on niche titles that traditionally are ignored by mainstream gamers but that is changing and it is here that we’re seeing explosive growth in the industry. It is also why we could be viewed as the enemy of the console games market. Unity3D’s CEO, David Helgason, in his keynote speech referred to it as the “democratization” of the video games machine. For the first time, indie development studios have the tools, and more importantly the market, to develop their games and get them in the hands of hungry gamers without the multimillion dollar budgets and traditional publishing deals that kept their titles from widespread distribution in the past. It is this ability to develop, self publish and market their own products via social media that have some developers and publishers scratching their heads wondering what they should do, if anything, while they are cut out of the loop.

Will this lead to the death of the console game market as some have suggested? As a console gamer, I certainly don’t think so. To explain, let me quickly summarize my view of the current console market.

Certainly there’s been a fair amount of coverage by those noting a decline in games sales across North America in the past couple of years, but far from that signalling the overall death knell for the console market, I view it as simply part of the cycle. The Wii’s initial popularity took many analysts by surprise but now that the novelty has worn off, Wii sales have begun to taper off.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360, with its hardware issues always struggled to maintain positive growth while the company suffered billions in losses in the division responsible for the Xbox. The 360 often saw year over year declines before price cuts would temporarily boost sales. Microsoft finally has been able to get the price of manufacturing the console down and recently scored a big hit with the release of their camera add on – the Kinect, luring away many of Nintendo’s market with their family friendly, motion games. It remains to be seen if this surge will be sustainable or if the Kinect will also gather dust next to the Wii in family rooms in a few months time. Meanwhile, with Microsoft focusing their energies on the bounty that Kinect has provided, the concern is the “core” gamers who have supported the console are being left out as popular exclusives that were once the main draw of the console have slowed to a trickle.

That leaves Sony’s PS3 which many in the media had criticised as being slow out of the gates but in reality has performed much better overall on its time in the market then the Xbox 360, but not as well as its predecessor. Despite a high initial price point relative to the other consoles and the worst economic downturn since the 30’s, the Playstation 3 has handily outsold the 360 head to head in worldwide sales in its time on the market and has steadily increased growth and install base to the point where it has nearly overtaken the 360’s overall lead due to the 360’s extra time on the market. Recent financial reports from Sony have shown not only are PS3 sales steadily increasing in contrast to the spikes and dips Microsoft’s 360 has struggled with, but software sales have also shown year over year growth of nearly 30%. With rumours of a price cut to the magical $199 mark mounting, developers such as Capcom have recently projected an unprecedented surge in PS3 software sales. Certainly the PS3 has shown it can deliver the goods in terms of family friendly fair, motion games with their Playstation Move accessory, console reliability and Blu-Ray while delivering excellence in their overall software line-up. It certainly appears that in the console market, slow and steady can win the race and the PS3 shows few signs of slowing worldwide.

So with the Wii and 360 still pulling in the gamers, Kinect at least temporarily striking a chord with families, the Wii2 on the horizon and the PS3 seemingly on the verge of a price cut that could see the powerful console in more homes than ever is console gaming really doomed? Is browser based and mobile games the future as some have suggested?

As one who enjoys console games and develops mobile games for a living, not a chance. If anything, the explosion of browser/mobile games will bring more gamers into the fold as they reach out to those that are new gamers and those that may be old gamers that have lost their way and leave them wanting more. It is the consoles that will then fill the need for bigger and better things. The videogame market is big enough to sustain both worlds. I feel as a result of the popularity of smaller games we may see an increase in the downloadable games market on the consoles as “medium” sized games will nicely bridge the gap between mobile games and “core” games while allowing developers the creative freedom that big budget titles can often constrain. I do not believe it will come at the expense of the traditional console games.

With any luck the explosion in the mobile and browser games space will be a good thing for the entire industry and I certainly hope our small studio can be part of that. As a business model for success in the mobile/browser market may be elusive at the moment it seems unlikely to me that this marketplace will supplant the console game market anytime soon. However, I don’t think it should be dismissed either. Hopefully, we’ll surprise you.

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MAY
11
2011

The journey is the reward

By Kyle Kulyk

Welcome to my first developer blog for Itzy Interactive, Ipse Dixit. Through this blog I’d like to invite readers to come along with us and follow along as our fledgling company starts out, develops their first game, hopefully their second game, and potentially learn something from us along the.

Before we begin, it’s probably a good idea to start with who I am.

My name is Kyle Kulyk, I’m 37 years old, Canadian and I’m an indie games developer. For the decade leading up to the market crash and recession, I worked in the brokerage industry, first as a trader and investment representative and later as an Associate Advisor, managing client’s accounts for a full serve brokerage house. Life was pretty good. I was happily married, had my first baby on the way – then a market crash and a layoff left me reeling, my career plan in tatters and no matter where I went I heard the same thing. “Nice resume. As soon as we start hiring again, we’ll have to give you a call.”

So there I was. Mid-thirties, unemployed, baby on the way with no idea when my industry was going to pick up again and a career plan completely obliterated. It was during that time that I was able to take a moment to assess myself and my skills and I discovered one indisputable truth.

I’m a geek.

 

I’m a nerd. I’m a game geek. I’m a computer geek. I’m a movie geek. I’m a technology geek. I always have been. Since the days when I sat in my room as a kid typing games in from Compute’s Gazette magazine onto my Commodore 64 to over 20 years later chilling in my man-cave, happily gaming and trying to figure out new ways to make elves disappear, I’ve always been a geek. The Kyle that sat up in his 24th storey office with his suit and tie, neatly trimmed beard and bottle of office scotch was always a seething mass of geek just waiting to burst out and spray hot geek all over anything in the vicinity. It had come time to embrace who I was. I owed it to my family and to myself to be happy.

 

So, off to school I went. I enrolled into a Digital Media and IT program at my local technical institute and took my old ass back to school where I was surrounded by teens and twenty something’s. I focused on Game Programming and Design courses before finally graduating with honours. Now, it occurred to me at various points in my schooling that I may have lost my mind. Game Programming? How on earth am I going to get a job in game programming? The market for game programming in my area is somewhat limited to say the least – but I had to take a stab at it and it felt good. Working in games, programming, designing…it all felt right and even when I complained about something that wasn’t working as it should, this field never felt like work to me. It was never a chore. And the pride I felt in my first small games, first completed levels – that pride was more than I felt at any time during my 10 years working in the brokerage industry.

So, here I am now, co-founder and lead designer of Itzy Interactive feeling a mixture of excitement and abject terror. During the final days of my schooling, my wife suggested to me that I needed to team up with others and make my own studio (the thought really hadn’t crossed my mind prior to that. How does one make his own studio?) – and the research that followed convinced me that I could do it. This was a viable business strategy. I just needed to find people crazy enough to come along for the ride.

And I found them. Will Iftody, Co-Founder, programmer and longtime friend. Cole Dixon, Game Programmer and youngling. And a few other friends and artists who’re helping us along the way. You know who you are and we wouldn’t be here without you. And our first game is taking shape.

I’ll try to update this blog every couple of weeks or so to keep you all in the loop with how our game is coming and what we’re learning. In the meantime – if anyone finds themselves in the Vancouver area for the Canadian Games Conference next week on the 19th and 20th, we might see you there. I’ll be updating my blog shortly after the event to let you all know how it went.

Cheers!

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